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I Never Thought I Could be a ‘Rising Star’ at My Age, says Flintshire Worker

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This article has been submitted by The Welsh Government

Deeside-based frozen food retailer, Iceland, has shown its commitment to investing in its older employees’ skills by backing a new Welsh Government campaign designed to challenge stereotypes and show ’people do not have a best before date’.

Debra Davies, Buying Services Manager at Iceland’s head office in Deeside joined the company 30 years ago starting off in stock control. Now, the 55-year-old is in charge of a team of six managing product data, ensuring each item on sale is described and priced in the right way.

Debra and Iceland are supporting the Welsh Government’s Age of Investment initiative launched during Skills for Work Week, which highlights to employers across Wales the importance of retaining their older workers.

It warns employers that within the next five years, one in three people of working age will be over fifty. Therefore, investing in skills throughout an employee’s working life has never been more important.

“I’ve grown with the company, moving into buying as a supervisor and then into team management,” said Debra. “I am immensely proud to have been here so long and to be part of a culture that values and supports people.

“I love being a team leader, but I know I have to keep learning. The job changes with new technology and you have to move with those changes.

“About 70 per cent of our job in Buying is repetitive, but it’s a repetition that is vital to the stability of the business. The other 30 per cent is challenging and exciting and unexpected, so you have to give your team the skills to handle that too.”

In 2014, Debra was nominated by the company for Retail Week’s Rising Star Awards, the oldest in her category at 52.

Debra continued:

“Who’d have thought you could be a Rising Star at my age? The other finalists were younger than me, but Iceland reminded me it wasn’t about age. It was about what I was adding to the company, and could still add. I think the idea here is that anything is possible.”

Iceland has a number of systems in place to ensure its workforce is as skilled as possible and operates effectively, no matter what the age of the employees.

Helen Tindle, People Director at Iceland, added:

“We’ve learned if, once you’ve recruited the right people, you value them and support them, pay them a good, wage, and encourage them to value others they want to stick around. And we have a lot of people who’ve stuck around for a really long time. We don’t discern by age at all.”

As part of its Age of Investment initiative, the Welsh Government has teamed up with BITC Cymru, Learning and Work Institute and the Older People’s Commissioner to launch the ‘People Don’t Have a Best Before Date’ campaign, designed to challenge the stereotypes of older workers and demonstrate their value in the workplace.

Debra is one of eleven employees selected from a cross-section of exemplar Welsh businesses that have shown a commitment to investing in an all-age workforce to feature in the campaign. It will combine radio and digital advertising and downloadable advice guides and toolkits to illustrate to employers the tangible business benefits of creating a skilled, effective, multi-generational workforce.

Commenting on the launch of this campaign and highlighting why it has never been more important for companies to recognise how valuable their older worker are.

Skills and Science Minister, Julie James, said:

“Older workers are vital for the future prosperity of our economy and our businesses. Retaining people, developing their skills throughout their working life and recruiting older workers has never been more critical to business survival as well as growth.

“Our workforce in Wales is getting older and young people joining the labour market will not fill all of the vacancies. This campaign is designed to encourage all employers – but particularly SMEs where the loss of skills and cost of recruitment can be more consequential – that they need older workers to survive and grow.

“We hope it will reinforce the issue to Welsh businesses of all sizes and give them practical advice on how they can manage and retain the skills and experience of their older workers, and appeal to the market of older recruits.”

For employers looking for more information on how they can invest in the skills of their older workers, the Welsh Government’s Skills Gateway for Business – https://businesswales.gov.wales/skillsgateway/ has a range of advice and guidance.